December 7th update:
The Cruise Industry News website (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) is reporting that the ship purchased by the new start up Chinese operator, Diamond Cruises, is actually Estur’s Aegean Paradise, and not the Island Escape, as previously cited by the same source.
As of this moment, the actual future deployment of the Island Escape -if any- has yet to be determined.
The Cruise and Ferry website (www.cruiseandferry.net) is reporting the sale by Thomson Cruises of the Island Escape to Cruise Holdings.
The vessel is apparently underway to the French port of Brest, where she will be renamed as Ocean Gala. News of any upgrades or future deployment is as yet unclear, but it seems that the popular budget vessel will continue in cruise service after all- welcome news for the many thousands of passengers with fond memories of this ship.
Island Escape actually started life as the Scandinavia of 1982. She was a dual purpose cruise and car ferry, intended to run on a regular service between New York and the Bahamas for DFDS Seaways.
The service was never the anticipated success, and the Scandinavia soon returned to Europe to operate on the overnight cruise ferry service between Copenhagen and Oslo.
It was Royal Caribbean international that first saw the potential for her as a ship ideally suited to short cruises. The ship was extensively refitted, including the installation of the trademark RCCL ‘Viking Crown’ lounge around her funnel, and she was put back into service under the name of Viking Serenade.
in this guise, she ran for many successful seasons on the three and four night cruise run from Los Angeles down to Ensenada, Mexico. Once more surplus to requirements by the turn of the new century, she was taken over by First Choice cruises, renamed as the Island Escape, and put into service on seven night cruises from Palma de Mallorca to the Mediterranean. In winter, the doughty little ship sometimes even sailed to Brazil to operate voyages there.
Increasingly however, over winter the Island Escape usually home ported in Tenerife for similar, week long budget cruise runs to the Canary Islands and Madeira, a role in which she proved very popular.
Once First Choice was assimilated into the Thomson Brand, the Island Escape continued to sail, but was often marketed separately from the main body of the Thomson Cruises fleet. With new tonnage becoming available to Thomson of late, the sale of Island Escape was seen as inevitable.
Island Escape gained a good reputation as a solid, high density cruise ship that was comfortable and familiar, rather than stunning and luxurious- very much an entry level product that, none the less, endeared herself to many. It is a matter of some gratitude that she will continue to sail on as a part of the global cruise family as the Ocean Gala.
I wish the ship and her new owners every success. Stay tuned for updates as they become available.
The respected industry website, Cruise Industry News (www.cruiseindustrynews.com) is reporting that the Island Escape has actually been sold to a start up Chinese cruise operator, Diamond Cruises.
She will operate for them on cruises from Shanghai after an extensive refurbishment designed to make her more suitable for the local trade. This refit will be carried out in Europe.
The website quotes the China Cruise and Yacht Industry Association as it’s prime source of information.